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‘We're Hands-On People’: Healing Diabetes in the Absence of Traditional Healers in an Aboriginal Community in Northern Territory, Australia.

Ashleigh Elizabeth Mitchell, Trisia Farrelly, Robyn Andrews


This study of a remote Aboriginal community in Australia’s Northern Territory in 2014 sought to understand diabetes from a local Aboriginal perspective. Participants drew on a variety of holistic healing methods in the absence of an individual or individuals identified as holding a healing role in the community. The study offers an alternative to the common assumption that all communities can identify specific individuals as Aboriginal healers who are central to maintaining Aboriginal beliefs and wellbeing who contribute to holistic health (Clarke 2008; Maher 1999; McDonald 2006; Seathre 2013; Williams 2011). This research found the seven adult Aboriginal diabetes patients participating in the longitudinal ethnographic study actively engaged in self-healing strategies. Moreover, diabetes clinicians could combine local remedies and biomedical treatment to heal diabetes within the clinic, as well as actively engaging the patient in their own treatment, effective to reduce the symptoms and prevalence of diabetes in Aboriginal populations.


Skilled practice; diabetes; Aboriginal health, medical anthropology, Indigenous studies.

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